Transparency the key as Welsh professional rugby faces greatest threat yet

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It’s taken a devastating virus that has cost hundreds of thousands of lives worldwide, but finally something has emerged that has done more damage to Welsh professional rugby than Roger Lewis.

Six years on from the end of the civil war and once again the four professional clubs in Wales are staring down the barrel with a report from the Sunday Times over the weekend suggesting that the funding shortfall for this year could be as much as £23m from the Welsh Rugby Union.

When the WRU funding starts at £26m then you can begin to understand what a significant hole that is on the balance sheet for the four sides, with Cardiff Blues reportedly having a £6.5m slice of that pie, although that number is unconfirmed.

If that is correct then it represents 50% of our £13m turnover to the year ending June 2019, and with ticketing, sponsorship, hospitality and non-rugby revenue linked to the Arms Park all taking a big hit during this Coronavirus pandemic, the outlook is bleak in the capital and across South Wales.

Tweets from the CF10 Arms Park Rugby Trust following a virtual meeting with Cardiff Blues last week certainly reinforced that view, with company secretary Martyn Ryan discussing the financial pressures facing the business with the aim being ‘the survival of the company in the short term through grants (and) loans’.

All this creates a real air of uncertainty over the future of Cardiff Blues and professional rugby in Wales, and it’s often at times like these that supporters get left in the dark over what the circumstances are at their teams.

Of course the priority has to be the players, coaches and staff at each club as it’s their livelihoods on the line, but supporters should not just be forgotten, especially after the WRU had taken big strides towards a creating an air of transparency before the virus struck.

Martyn Phillips WRU CEO

Meetings with supporters groups had gone through the detail of the new funding plan being put into place in Welsh Rugby, with largely positive feedback from those in attendance, while road shows were planned to offer the same detail to the media and wider supporters at the conclusion of the Six Nations.

Now though early indications seem to suggest that transparency isn’t continuing into this new world shaped by the Coronavirus with WalesOnline rugby writer Simon Thomas tweeting this week that his ‘WRU and regional contacts (are) all very tight-lipped both on and off the record’.

At this point it’s early doors and there’s still plenty of reason to give the powers that be time to communicate their plans effectively. It may well be the case that the plan needs to be signed off, detailed to players and staff first, or potentially there isn’t actually a plan yet which wouldn’t necessarily be surprising.

They need to get something in place quickly though, the Welsh Rugby Union, Professional Game Board and Cardiff Blues, as at the moment there isn’t necessarily a confidence that professional rugby will continue at the Arms Park on the other side of this pandemic in the way it was beforehand.

Transparency with supporters will go a long way to allaying those fears, building on the good work done ahead of this Coronavirus hitting and increasing the reputation of those running the professional game in Wales, with supporters still too often left in the dark over the status of the teams we invest so much time and money in.

There will be plenty of difficult times over the next few weeks, months and years, and getting supporters on board and engaged in helping our sides through that will be key. Don’t leave us in the dark!

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